I find myself writing this over and over when working my way through a manuscript.
“Specific details help us picture the scene.”
However, I should point out that this only works for the important details. Mundane details, such as the specific order in which the character dresses, what side of the bed she rolls out of, or what type of soap she uses in the shower, are NOT needed.
Summarize the mundane details; be specific with the important ones. These are the details that show the scene, that are unique to the character, that vary from the norm. It takes practice and talent to decide which details are important and which are not. Next time you are giving details, ask yourself if those you choose are details that paint a picture, or details that don’t really tell us anything.
Here is an example:
Is anyone still awake after reading this? I almost fell asleep writing it. Can you picture this room? It’s just a generic hotel room. We know it has a bed a table and lamps. Don’t all hotel rooms have these? So why did we have to sit through that? And after a description like that, do we even want to continue reading? Maybe to battle insomnia.
If there isn’t anything specific about the room, then don’t waste your words describing it. You can add some detail if needed using active descriptions. Active descriptions are those where the reader is given details as the character is interacting with the object/setting instead of stopping the story to describe it.
It seems that in this paragraph, the layout of the room isn’t the main focus. Her plight is. Who cares about the room?
If, however, you do want the room to be a focus for mood or tone, then pick out the unusual details that do this. The telling details.
Yes it’s longer, but can you get a feel for this room and how it ties in with her plight?
Guest Blogger Bio
Catherine is the owner and an editor at Critiquemynovel.com. She has written one novel and has a writing help book on the drawing board. She is an Army veteran who went back to school after eight years in the Army and rediscovered her passion for the written word.
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